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It's a good time to be Batman. Well, maybe not seeing as he's currently fighting to bring his son back to life in the comics. Okay, let's rephrase that: it's a good time to be a Batman fan. Not only are his current titles worth checking out, but it's also his 75th anniversary and he's been voted as our Character of the Month! We've already provided a look at just some of his Best Covers and now we think it's time to suggest a few of his must read stories! Look, the guy has 75 years worth of story arcs, so we tried to keep it limited to the ones featuring Bruce Wayne in the cape and cowl (he is the Character of the Month, after all) and collections that are pretty easy to obtain -- we've got your back, new readers. If a collected story you adore isn't on here, go ahead and praise it in the comments. There's a chance it'll motivate someone else to read it!
Writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee's Hush is pretty much the biggest dose of popcorn entertainment you'll be able to get from a Batman story. Its visuals are topnotch and the story never slows down; it's loaded with thrilling action and character dynamics. When Loeb's not building-up Batman's new foe, he's bringing in a whole lot of familiar faces and putting them to good use. Wayne has a standout encounter with the Joker and fans still talk about his brawl with Superman.The narrative may not blow your mind, but it's a total blast and a great starting point for new fans.
The Dark Knight Returns
We'll be blunt: Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS is something every comic fan needs to read. Opinions in our community seem to be mixed on it, but this look at an older Batman is full of themes which have stood the test of time and it's packed with absolutely unforgettable encounters. The Mutant Leader, Joker, Superman... all sequences that are sure to linger around in your mind. Some Superman fans may not be pleased with how the Man of Steel is portrayed, but that doesn't stop it from being a compelling read. Plus, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is clearly drawing some inspiration from this, so do your homework before buying a ticket!
Under the Red Hood
Okay, odds are most of you know who's wearing the red helmet, but that by no means takes away from the overall ride. Judd Winick's story is action-packed and has some great character beats. The conclusion between the two is a phenomenal scene and overall, it's just a hugely entertaining story. If you want crazy superhero action, occasional laughs, and a good dose of emotion, you should pick this up.
The Long Halloween / Dark Victory
We already said Loeb's Hush isn't attention-grabbing because of the mystery, but the writer really brought his A game with these two storylines. Along with the remarkable Tim Sale, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory are totally immersive experiences. You'll be pulled into the dark and lengthy crime thriller and then explore the ramifications and have some superhero fun along the way as well. If you want to sit-down for a good amount of time and please your mind and your eyes, cozy up with these two collections and jump right in.
Jeez, talk about having a spoiler alert right on the cover. But seriously, we all know Bane is the man who broke Batman's back (if you didn't, well, our bad?), but do you know the complete story? What caused the Dark Knight to be so drained that the strong villain could smack him around and eventually shatter him? And what about Jean-Paul Valley's adventures as Batman? Just because you know the big moment doesn't mean you fully appreciate how it all happened and what it meant for Gotham. It's just one of the many stories that shows how far Bruce will go to protect his city. And if you really need extra convincing, you should know this story isn't just about Bane and Batman -- it's overflowing with characters and each villain gets a moment in the spotlight. There's lots of fighting, lots of big moments, and a nice insight into Batman. It's a big chapter in Batman's life, so if you really want to get to know Bruce and all that he's been through, you really should give this a read at some point.
The Black Mirror
So this one is kind of cheating, but that's okay because it's truly outstanding. You see, it's a Batman story, but it's Dick Grayson wearing the cape and cowl instead of our Character of the Month, Bruce Wayne. Still, considering the fact it's without question one of the top "Batman" stories, we simply couldn't leave it off the list. Scott Snyder's mystery is oozing with a haunting atmosphere and the gripping tale will keep you glued to the pages until you reach the very last one. As if that wasn't enough, it has exceptional and completely fitting artwork by the absurdly talented Jock and Francesco Francavilla. Yes, we're strongly recommending each of the stories on this list, but do yourself a favor and read this one as soon as possible. You can thank us later.
Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's YEAR ONE is mandatory reading. Really, you have no good excuse to pass on this one. This engaging origin story reveals Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham and why he becomes the Caped Crusader. Additionally, it shows James Gordon's earlier years with the GCPD and illustrates just how dirty the city was before Batman became well-known and Gordon gained more power. Not only is it a must read because it's Batman's origin story, but it's also a thoroughly entertaining journey and has one of Batman's most iconic moments.
The Killing Joke
If you're a fan of the Joker or wondering why others appreciate him, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's THE KILLING JOKE is something you need to experience. It's still unclear what the Clown Prince of Crime's true origin story is, but Moore presents one possibility and it showcases how the villain and Batman are destined to clash. All it takes is one incident to completely change a person's path in life. If YEAR ONE is mandatory reading for Batman fans, THE KILLING JOKE is mandatory for Joker fans. Barbara Gordon fans, though? Well, they may want to look elsewhere.
Born to Kill
Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Mick Gray's debut BATMAN AND ROBIN story is without question one of the best Batman adventures in the New 52. Where it ranks will obviously vary from fan to fan, but it's an emotionally gripping arc that puts the dynamic between Bruce and his son, Damian Wayne, front and center. It'll have a firm grasp on your focus as a new character challenges the bond between Batman and Robin by appealing to Damian's roots and his desire to kill bad guys. It humanizes the two leads impressively well and is complimented by some terrific artwork and intense action scenes.
A Death in the Family
Jason Todd may be pretty popular nowadays, but back in the '80s, fans voted to kill the poor kid! Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo's 4-issue storyline gives the second Robin a little more depth before making him meet a very horrific end. The turn of events with the Joker may be a little too silly for some, but this is still a huge part of Batman's mythos and had a major impact on him. So, don't you want to see how it all went down? Make sure the collection you purchase also includes Marv Wolfman's follow-up, A Lonely Place of Dying. Let's just say it's a huge Tim Drake story, okay?
SUPERMAN/BATMAN: THE WORLD'S FINEST
Another Jeph Loeb story?! We swear he didn't pay us (that much) to be included on the list multiple times! We're joking, obviously, and his opening arc with Ed McGuinness on SUPERMAN/BATMAN is making the list because it's a ton of fun. Sure, it's not compelling or thought-provoking, but it's an over-the-top story that throws a plenty of glorious superhero battles and delightful visuals our way. Don't you want to see Kal-El uppercut President Lex Luthor really, really hard?
The Court of the Owls / Night of the Owls
There was likely a lot of pressure on Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo to make sure Batman's primary New 52 title is a hit and man, they delivered and then some! They introduced the Court of Owls to Gotham City and this event was ridiculously exciting. Snyder's script brings Gotham to life and fills the city with so much history and Capullo's artwork is beyond creative and praiseworthy. Smart and full of spectacle, this is something we're sure many of you are going to really, really, reaaaaally enjoy.
Batman and Son
We will forever love Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert for this awesome story. As you can likely tell by the title, Batman and Son brings Damian Wayne into Batman's world and the result is a character-driven tale that's both funny and thrilling. Honestly, the first encounter between Tim Drake and Damian is worth the cover price alone. Yes, some of Morrison's stories tend to be a bit too abstract for some, but with this, he produces a story that everyone can appreciate and Kubert's pencils are oh-so-good.
Paul Dini and Bruce Timm crafted one of the best Harley Quinn stories you'll read. Do we really need to say anything else? Oh, we do? Fine. It's a joyous return to the classic days of the DCAU and it has over 60 pages of lovable story revolving around Harley Quinn. It also involves Joker, Batman, and Commissioner Gordon. If that doesn't make you want to read this one, then it probably just isn't for you! Everyone else is sure to love it, though.
Death of the Family
You don't want to miss out on the Joker's first standout story in the New 52, do you? Of course you don't! Snyder thrives with horror and mystery elements and they're put to proper use as the Clown Prince of Crime attempts to send Batman and his family a very, very important message. While Snyder provides a mighty fine script, Capullo does wonders with the panels and hits us with some truly haunting and outstanding artwork. It seems like the ending was hit or miss with our readers, but it's still an epic that's well-worth reading and does a great job highlighting the dynamic between Batman and his archenemy. Snyder and Capullo constantly receive a ton of praise for their work with the Dark Knight, so don't you think it's time for you to see why so many look forward to this title month after month?
The Black Glove / R.I.P.
Morrison's extensive work with Batman is a challenging yet immensely rewarding experience. The Black Glove and R.I.P. beg to be read multiple times and will keep you engaged each and every time. It's a sharp script that highlights just how prepared Batman truly is and Tony S. Daniel's artwork is stunning. Odds are you'll think it's a brilliant insight into Batman or it'll have you scratching your head. Either way, it's guaranteed to leave you reflecting on it and the visuals will leave an impression.
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Ladies and gentlemen, comic books don't get much more engrossing than this. Morrison and Dave McKean's ARKHAM ASYLUM: A SERIOUS HOUSE ON SERIOUS EARTH is an experience that'll grab onto you and pull you right into the infamous prison. McKean's paintings are beautiful yet disturbing and trippy. It's the perfect way to bring Morrison's look at the hair-raising Arkham Asylum and its inmates to life. When all is said and done, this graphic novel is more than likely going to be one of the most unique reading experiences you'll ever have with the Dark Knight and his rogues gallery.